#41: Josh Farkas on creating VR experiences for businesses and Cubicle Ninja’s Guided Meditation VR experience

Josh Farkas of Cubicle Ninjas talks about the Guided Meditation VR experience as a relaxing break for people.

Josh-FarkasHe also talks about the process of pitching VR to businesses, and what they’re doing to counter the negative, stereotypical views of virtual reality that are based upon the failures to live up to the 1990s hype. Josh says that once people experience VR, then that helps them to start to see the potential of what’s possible and how they could use it for their business.

Cubicle Ninjas works with Fortune 1000 companies and has a couple of demos that they’re showing to businesses including an architecture demo as well as a panoramic video that shows a number of different locations. He says that the location-based VR experiences are definitely the ones that are the easiest ones to pitch because the application is powerful and immediately clear. They’ve been able to get creative in making that connection between place and telling brand stories by showing a number of exotic locations with the message that a financial services credit card could be used at all of these different places.

Finally, he provides some more details about their meditation experience and intention behind that as well as their experiments with binaural audio, top feature requests and future plans. Overall, Josh is interesting in exploring VR beyond just gaming, and continue to explore how VR could be used by B2B and B2C companies to create experiences that he would enjoy having in VR.

Reddit discussion here.


  • 0:00 – Intro. Cubicle Ninjas wanted to build their own apps. Releasing a guided meditation app to give people a break over lunch. Want to build apps for businesses.
  • 0:58 – Cubicle Ninjas is a design agency, and have done a lot of mobile dev, but VR is the next generation tech that combines audio, video and 3d to tell interesting stories
  • 1:33 – Feedback and interest from customers on VR. Amazing response so far. Perception that VR is stuck in 1990, until they see a demo in the Rift. Demoing the Rift help break those perceptions and show the potential of VR.
  • 2:17 – They have two demos that they’re showing. Architecture demo to show a specific location. Panoramic video of different locations for a financial services company to show that credit cards are accepted at different places.
  • 3:22 – Press release announcing VR for business. VR doesn’t have to just for games. Highly valuable applications for B2B and B2C companies. Brands can tell their story in a new way.
  • 4:00 – Target demographic for Cubicle Ninjas. Fortune 1000 companies. Use VR to push innovation.
  • 4:38 – Location-based VR experiences are strong, but how do you apply that to a business context? Find a way to ground it in a real scenario can be difficult. Build stuff that they would want to use
  • 5:23 – VR experiences that you enjoy. Technolust. Unello Design’s Eden River. Pong with your Face in VR. Back to the Future.
  • 6:16 – Meditation application: 8-10 minute application. No set goals. Virtual beach and walked through some breathing exercises. Expand to different meditations and different environments.
  • 7:00 – Binaural audio or binaural beats? Not yet. But requests for audio books in VR
  • 7:22 – Integrating biometric feedback into the meditation application. Interview with Rollin McCraty on Institute of HeartMath.
  • 8:44 – Neurogaming and biometric feedback within VR. Creating a better and more relaxing VR experience.
  • 9:26 – What’s next for Cubicle Ninjas. Expand the guided meditation experiences. Show the reality of VR to counter the negative perceptions.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. We wanted to build applications of our own. So what we kind of ended up doing is building a guided meditation app. And so this released here at SVVRCon. And so what our hope is for that is really to kind of give a vacation on lunch break and give people a virtual experience that is a little bit different than the typical game environment. You know, our second kind of goal is really to help businesses actually build virtual reality applications. And we see the benefit in that for the VR space, mostly because I want to interact with wonderful applications and businesses have better budgets and can build things that I would want to experience.

[00:00:58.749] Josh Farkas: And so looking at your website, I get the impression that you guys are coming from being like a web development design shop. Maybe you could talk about that evolution there.

[00:01:06.197] Kent Bye: Yeah. So we're a design agency at our heart. But I think one core part of always what we do is trying to find new ways to tell better stories and give experiences. And so I think VR is the perfect example of that. So we do a lot of stuff in mobile and these other places. But VR is the combination of all of these different elements in one spot. We've got people who do audio and video and design and 3D. And this is our chance to put them all together and tell wonderful stories.

[00:01:32.781] Josh Farkas: And so what's the interest been in terms of, are you on anybody's radar in terms of being a design shop or enterprise shop to be able to get these types of services?

[00:01:43.338] Kent Bye: I don't know. I think the response has been amazing when we talk to actual customers. I think there's this perception that VR is stuck in 1990 forever. And I think that's not actually the case. And so I think when people are skeptical until we get them in a room and we put a headset on and we show a demo that is relevant to their business use. And I think once they experience that, their mind totally changes. And I think that has been Wonderful, because one, as a VR evangelist, it helps me walk around and show people who think this is a dead or dying industry and show them, no, this is just starting and your business can be way ahead of the curve in competitive ways.

[00:02:16.922] Josh Farkas: Can you give some specific examples of demos that are resonating with this community that you're working with?

[00:02:22.243] Kent Bye: Totally. So there's two demos that we have right now. Tonight I'm flying out to LA to actually share one of them with a large property company that we work with. And so one is in kind of the architecture space and showing locations. And so they have thousands of locations across the globe. If I go to an event and I say, I want to go to Japan next year, what does that location look like? I can actually put on a headset and walk through that. And I think for that, it's a natural, clear use case. But I think the other one that is less so is one that we're working on right now is the panoramic video experience. We're taking panoramic video of different locations like Paris and Venice and all these wonderful, cool places. And that's actually for a financial company. So it's a financial services company. So it's like, at the end of the day, it allows folks to see, oh yeah, this card is accepted here. But meanwhile, I go on a virtual vacation to these wonderful locales. So I think those are two use cases. One is a little bit more clear, but the other one is like, I think it's totally unique. And I think what's interesting is they're about the stodgiest client you could have, and they're willing to experiment in this space.

[00:03:22.541] Josh Farkas: And this morning I saw a press release go out that you're announcing VR for business, and what does that mean?

[00:03:28.987] Kent Bye: It means that VR does not have to be just for games, and I think that VR for business use cases, either B2B or B2C uses, I think is highly valuable. And I think it's highly valuable for businesses to show their competitive advantages, and I also think it's highly valuable for consumers. I want to play better stuff. I want to experience better things. And I want to have a brand tell me its story in its own way. And I'm tired of apps. And I'm tired of print. I want to go somewhere. Show me. Wow me. And I think that's what our hope is with VR for Business.

[00:04:00.347] Josh Farkas: What is sort of your target demographic and design that you've been working with already?

[00:04:05.843] Kent Bye: Yeah, really good question. I would say probably the core audience of who we're working with is, you know, Fortune 1000 companies. And so, you know, that's our core audience. And so I would say the same with the VR for business route is I feel like that's an opportunity for people who have significant leverage in those markets to kind of use that to push innovation. And so we're going to a lot of our existing clients and pitching these ideas. And I think they would never have these thoughts of their own. But our hope is that kind of by starting the ball rolling, that other companies, medium sized businesses will start to see, hey, we have to be competitive. We have to compete. Let's try this and explore this space too.

[00:04:38.627] Josh Farkas: So one of the obvious things about virtual reality is that it's able to take you to another place and location. So I'm curious about how you're translating those locations and pitching them as a VR experience to these companies.

[00:04:49.833] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that has been one of the easier things once people put on a Rift. I think once they actually go to a place and they experience it, I think that's been a blast. I think the challenge is when it's not location-based. How do you show that? So I think finding a way to ground it in reality in a real scenario has been tough. The financial example is one, though, that I think is good. How do you show a financial institution without showing a bank and be like, ooh, sweet, I'm gonna use an ATM? And doing that and doing it in a way that's bigger and cooler and more powerful, I think that's the hope, is building stuff that I wanna work with and I wanna use.

[00:05:23.737] Josh Farkas: Yeah, speaking of that, what type of VR experiences are you really drawn to that you're sort of tying this into your day job? But I imagine you may have a broader view of VR and experiences that you've enjoyed having.

[00:05:33.580] Kent Bye: My goodness, yeah. Everyone here is so inspirational, I got to say. Like, walking around is kind of like meeting my heroes. For me, I'm a huge fan of Technolust. I think Technolust has been brilliant and amazing. You know, Unello Design, I think, is a huge one for us. And you can probably see that in our guided meditation application. There's some similarities in there. You know, even the simple things, like there's, and I'm forgetting the name of it, there's like a Pong demo, there's a few of these where you, it's like a Pong with your face, but like, even things like that, where it's like, they're boring concepts on paper, but in actuality, they totally transform the idea. So I think anything from these fully realized demos to like driving around in the Back to the Future car, for me, is like, changed my mind on the opportunity here, so.

[00:06:14.648] Josh Farkas: And so tell me a bit more about this meditation application in terms of what is one experience in it?

[00:06:20.151] Kent Bye: So it's about an 8 to 10 minute experience right now. And the goal really is, in contrast to some of those others that I mentioned, there really is no set goals. And so you go into this, it's really a vacation on a lunch break. So hopping into the app, you go to kind of a meditative state and then you land in a virtual beach and you're walk through breathing and kind of tensing exercises. And so the hope of that is by the time you get out, you just feel really relaxed. Our hope for the future is to kind of expand this with different meditations as well as different environments. And so you can kind of choose it like a playlist and almost say, you know, today I want to go to a Zen garden and I want to listen to this positivity meditation.

[00:06:59.581] Josh Farkas: Have you experimented with any binaural beats like Kimisync or Holosync?

[00:07:03.323] Kent Bye: Not with those, no. Right now we're playing with binaural audio, and there's a couple plugins that we're trying to play with, but not any beat-related music stuff. But that has been a request. Also, audiobooks has also been a request, so I think it's a natural fit.

[00:07:16.898] Josh Farkas: Yeah, well, I know that I've been involved in different spiritual communities and meditation and, you know, one thing that comes to mind is heart math, which is, you know, the heart rate variability of being able to measure heart coherence to see how well the focused or meditative state that you've been in. I'm not sure if you've heard of that or have thought about trying to integrate that type of technology.

[00:07:36.554] Kent Bye: I would say that's probably one of the top five pieces of feedback we've been receiving, which is really exciting to me. And I think the challenge is, where do we draw the line of goals? Does it become a goal then to drop my heart rate? And so it's one of those interesting things. But I do agree that some sort of feedback loop to show you you're doing it right just simply makes sense. I would like that, just to be able to know that when I get into a stressful situation, I have the skills within me to bring my heart rate down. So I think it's a really brilliant idea. And we just got to play and see if we can figure out a way to do it.

[00:08:05.703] Josh Farkas: Yeah, just to sort of clarify on the heart rate, it's not heart rate, it's actually the variability between the beats. And so your heart rate doesn't beat in a consistent rate and it alters and varies in a sine wave and so you can actually measure the coherence of how well the focus meditative state is based upon heart rate variability, which is what HeartMath has sort of innovated with their technologies and there's open source versions of that out there.

[00:08:27.997] Kent Bye: That is awesome and I had no idea. So now I need to go do some research or pick your brain after this.

[00:08:33.210] Josh Farkas: Yeah, I did some interviews at the Institute of Noetic Sciences with Roland McCreary, one of the founders of HeartMath and the chief scientist. So, it's a technology that I've played around with and I think the NeuroGaming conference, to me, is one that's really interesting in terms of actually getting biometric feedback and feeding it into the system. And having, you know, the problem with something like HeartMath is that you're in a meditative state, you have to wake up, open your eyes, look at a computer screen, which, you know, how many layers of immersion are you breaking there? to be able to actually see how well you're doing. And then so, you know, I've imagined that there should be some more either close your eyes and just see lights coming or some sort of other feedback to get into a meditative state.

[00:09:13.187] Kent Bye: So that's a really cool idea. Yeah, well, I'll definitely have to check it out. I mean, it sounds exactly in line with our goals, really, just to create a better, more relaxing place. And if we can actually have data that backs it up, that says it's working, I think that's valuable.

[00:09:26.059] Josh Farkas: Great. And so what's next for you guys? What do you see as the next steps for where you're going from here?

[00:09:30.101] Kent Bye: I think twofold. One, I want to continue to expand our guided meditation experience. The response here has been overwhelmingly positive. And we need to make some optimizations. But outside of that, I really want to continue to grow both the meditations and some of the improvements that people have suggested. And on the second area, for us in regards to business, I want to keep talking to customers and clients and showing them the reality of VR versus what their perceptions are. I think that business adoption of these things allows a completely unique market. And I think that's key for its growth as its industry.

[00:10:02.538] Josh Farkas: Great. Well, thanks so much. Thank you.

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